Biosecurity considerations to protect your equine investment

Simple biosecurity measures can help to reduce chances of infectious disease introduction to your horse or horse farm.

As spring gets into full swing, many equine owners take advantage of the opportunities and activities that are offered and/or are available throughout the equine community. These activities may range from trade shows, exhibitions, horse sales, trail rides, to visiting other farms, etc. When planning activities, it is important to have a year round biosecurity plan in place on and off the farm in order to reduce the risk associated with infectious disease spread or introduction to your horse or farm. Here are a few practical biosecurity measures to consider both on and off your horse farm:

  • Precautions for visitors – Designate an area for visitor parking to prevent any unwanted traffic around your farm. Request that visitors have clean boots and/or provide them with plastic protective pull -on covers. Provide a hand washing/hand sanitizer station before having contact with horses.

  • Clean equipment – Designate boots for your farm as compared to other farms, sale & show facilities. Change clothing (home vs. fair, show, trail ride, etc.) Use of equipment -if borrowing, clean before use and upon returning it. This includes: tack, trailer, tractor, etc. Additionally, it is never a bad idea to wash your vehicle’s tires occasionally.

  • Feed and water – In an effort to prevent fecal contamination from mice/rats, birds, dogs, cats, livestock and other wildlife, store grain/concentrate in an appropriate container. Away from the farm - DO NOTS: use community water troughs, feed buckets or allow horses to community graze with other horses. DO: Bring your own feed and water buckets if warranted.  

  • Isolation – Prevent horse nose to nose contact with unfamiliar horses when off the farm. Avoid shared feed, water and/or equipment with horses not from your farm. Have the appropriate updated documentation if needed: Official Certificate of Health, Coggins test, vaccination, deworming. If you have purchased a new horse or welcome a visiting horse, isolate this horse from other horses on your farm for 30 days. Your horses that routinely exit the farm for show, tail rises, etc should be housed and pastured separately from the animals that never leave the property. Be sure to care for/visit quarantined horses last to avoid potential disease spread

  • Insect control – Insects serve as vectors for disease. Debris management is critical in avoiding places for unwanted insects to thrive. Be sure to clean up spoiled feed, manure, used bedding, and weeds. Do not allow standing water in pails, old tires, on tarps, etc as mosquitoes can mature in a few days. In addition, water containers should be emptied and cleaned occasionally.

  • Manure management – Limit fecal – oral contact by having an appropriate manure management plan. Composting manure works well to kill parasites and weed seeds. If planning to spread manure on pastures, do this during non-grazing periods when horses will be removed from the area. If dragging a dry lot – do this on hot, dry days to potentially allow heat to kill some of the parasites. When away from the farm, clean up after your horse by using your own pick or shovel. If you lend your pick or shovel to someone else or clean up after someone else’s horse, be sure to clean and disinfect it before putting it back in your trailer or bringing it home.  

At minimum, a biosecurity plan should include: clean boots, clean hands, clean clothes and clean equipment. Remember that you don’t have to live in a bubble, but be aware of the risks and have a year round plan to reduce those associated risks.

Additional information: The University of Guelph, along with Colorado State University and sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation (AAEP Foundation) and Vétoquinol Canada Inc. have developed an equine biosecurity risk calculator  that is available for horse owners to evaluate what their respective equine biosecurity risks may be.

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